The Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was renamed the Presbyterian Mission Agency at the 2012 General Assembly. It encompasses a wide range of ministries which are bound together by the fact that they all, one way or another, ‘face the public’:
- 1001 New Worshiping Communities (church planting)
- Compassion, Peace and Justice
- Evangelism and Church Growth
- Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women
- Special Offerings
- Theology, Worship and Education
- World Mission
As well as agencies for evangelism and church planting (the sort of thing which in the Church of Scotland is the remit of the Mission and Discipleship Council), this list also includes the ‘Compassion, Peace and Justice’ (CPJ) ministries of the Church. This is the sort of thing which in the Kirk falls under the remit of the Church and Society Council– social and public witness- but also a number of practical agencies which the Church of Scotland usually does in partnership with others. For example, we don’t have a domestic crisis agency like Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which most recently has been aiding those caught up in Hurricane Sandy, the recent school shootings in Connecticut; and Christian Aid is the British Churches’ agency for disasters overseas). I find it interesting that ministries of social witness, public policy and practical assistance are grouped under mission in way we do in the Church of Scotland. We ought, perhaps, to see Church and Society as a ministry or mission of the Church to the public arena. (The Presbyterian Mission agency website lists some 150 programmes they serve).
The social policy area of CPJ includes the Washington DC office- the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness– which I visited earlier in my study leave. Towards the end of my study leave I visited another agency, this time the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. I had visited the UN headquarters in New York near the start of my time in the US, and on 25 June I travelled back there to meet with the staff at the Presbyterian office.
The Presbyterian Office at the UN is housed in The Church Center at the UN. This is a twelve storey office block directly across the road from the UN headquarters. Like the building housing the PC(USA) Washington office, the Church Center is owned by the United Methodist Church. It includes a lovely chapel on the ground floor.
I met with Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, and (more briefly) Ryan Smith, the Presbyterian representative to the United Nations. I’m grateful to both of them for generously giving of their time. More about my conversation with Mark in the next post.
- Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly: introduction (peterstudyleave.wordpress.com)